There should have been no winner of MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 28 and the Finale of this reality TV cooking show last night, with both contestants making unforgivable mistakes in what was meant to be the pinnacle of the cooking competition! As a winner had to be chosen, the judges announced Kamini Pather as the winner, beating Leandri van der Wat by a ‘fraction’ of 6 out of 100 points.
The episode commenced with a very quick overview of the previous 27 episodes, highlighting Kamini’s near perfect past in being ‘top of the class’ (was this a predictor already?), and Leandri’s growth and top praise she received from Chef Prue Leith in particular. The two Finalists arrived at the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg on a very rainy day, and were surprised to find all fourteen the other MasterChef SA Finalists there, as well as their families. Kamini’s mother Anthea and brother Neelan were present, as well as Leandri’s (and Seline’s) father Neil, aunt (her ‘second mother‘ Leandri said) and sister Nadine. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that it was the biggest day of their lives, and he reminded the two Finalists about the prizes which the winner would win: R400000 in cash from Robertsons, groceries from Woolworths for a year, to the value of R100000, a new VW Golf 7, a 5 day holiday at the Maia Luxury Resort & Spa holiday in the Seychelles from Tsogo Sun, as well as a year’s supply of wine and a full sommelier course from Nederburg! For the first time, the runner-up wins R100000 from Robertsons.
The Finalists were introduced to the challenges for the day, being a Mystery Box, an Invention Test, and then a Pressure Test, with the family members standing at their work stations, and the other 14 Finalists watching from above from the mezzanine level. The two contestants received regular support from their family members and ‘colleagues’, with additional commentary to the camera.
Chef Pete said that he had chosen eleven ingredients, and that the Finalists could use any or all the ingredients and make any dish they wished. Ingredients included West Coast rock lobster, Nederburg Chardonnay, watercress, capers, coriander, fennel bulbs, pink fir apple potatoes, and self-raising flour. The judges said that both Kamini and Leandri had good energy. They were given 45 minutes for this challenge.
Leandri decided to make a standing custard with lobster, served with a watercress, coriander, and fennel soup on the side. Shannon Smuts commented that it was a brave dish to make when the stakes were so high. Leandri lost concentration by adding sugar instead of salt to the soup, not a mistake she should have made. She tried to correct this by adding olive brine for greater saltiness and to counter the sweetness, also adding crème fraîche. She told the judges that it was lovely to have her family present, who had encouraged her during the cooking. Chef Pete said her dish had good consistency, but Chef Benny Masekwameng said it was off balance with the overpowering saltiness. She should have made fewer elements, but it was a ‘valiant attempt’. Chef Andrew Atkinson said that it was adventurous to make custard in 45 minutes. He liked the idea of her different elements. He picked up the over-salted attempt to counter the sugar error.
Kamini said that she was ‘fired up and ready to go‘. She said ‘I want to win‘! She said that she felt stronger, having been ‘down to the bottom of the barrel‘. For her Mystery Box dish she made a Cayenne pepper tagliatelle. Chef Pete observed that she used self-raising flour to make the pasta, and he warned her that it would have to be rolled very thin, as the baking powder it contains would make it expand. Kamini served a tomato and fennel sauce flavoured with the rock lobster. Amanda Beck observed that Kamini always looks calm. Chef Benny said that the dish had a good smell when he checked on her during her preparation. Chef Pete was critical of her plating pasta on a flat plate, saying that a raised edge of a bowl helps one to eat it. It was also questioned whether pasta was a dish that was suitable to serve for such an important competition. Chef Pete liked the dish, and wanted to eat more, having said that if the dish was not a ‘wow, she is in serious trouble‘. Chef Andrew said that it was not the most attractive presentation, and reminded the viewers that if the dish is simple each element must be prepared perfectly. Chef Benny said there were not many elements, but that they were perfect and ‘melt in the mouth‘.
In this test, only one protein was offered, being chicken, there being so much to do with it, Chef Benny said. One must question whether the MasterChef SA Finalists should have been subjected to so easy a challenge at this Finale stage! The Finalists had 75 minutes in which to prepare the dish, which included 5 minutes in the Pantry.
Leandri ran back from the Pantry with many ingredients including 5 liters of oil. She chose to make a chicken liver Crème Brûlèe, served with a date, fig and green apple chutney, and polenta crisps. She smoked salt. Seline referred to her sister as a ‘mad scientist’. Neil Lowe worried about Leandri’s timing, and Jason Steel asked whether having the chicken liver as the hero of the dish was enough to meet the judges’ criterion. There was a touch of burning of the sugar coating but the judges did not pick it up. Presenting her plate to the judges, she said that ‘she had cooked from the heart‘. Chef Benny said that she had done all that she could, the polenta chips having a good crunch, and the parfait having caramelised well. But the chutney overpowered everything. Chef Pete picked up on the chutney too, saying it was too acidic. He liked the ‘rustic feel’ of her dish, with the chunky chips, giving it a ‘farmhouse feel‘. He questioned whether the dish had needed the extra sweetness from the brûlèe topping. Chef Andrew said the the dish was ‘country style‘, the parfait was creamy, and that the dish was clever, the chutney lifting it.
Kamini said that she could not really ‘mess it up’, and planned to make a chicken curry and cauliflower dish, names-dropping that she was adding a custard inspired by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts (whom Chef Benny mistakenly referred to as ‘Dale‘) and Chef Chris Erasmus’ pork terrine. Chef Benny praised her for being brave in trying some dishes she had not made before. She made a liver custard. She struggled to get her chicken thigh terrine out of the holder to plate it, but managed to get one slice for the plating. Chef Pete said that she had made clever use of the chicken. Chef Andrew said that the custard was overcooked, and that all the elements on her plate were beige. He liked the proportion of the elements, and praised her for her skill, talent, and creativity. Chef Benny added that it was brave of her to choose to make a terrine in 75 minutes!
The final dish which the Finalists had to prepare was one created by Chef Andrew, being a choux pastry éclair filled with peanut butter ice cream, topped with glossy pomegranate glaze, an orange reduction, warm pomegranate jellies, a pliable chocolate rope, and candied orange peel. At this stage the Finalists were ‘neck and neck‘ on points, the judges said. Chef Andrew said that the quantities had to be spot on, and that the ice cream should be smooth yet crunchy.
Leandri said that she had made choux pastry for the eclairs before. She said there were many elements to the dish which could be ‘easy to mess up‘. Seline commented with concern that the jelly would not set as Leandri had not cooked the agar agar (vegetarian gelatine) for long enough, but it did ultimately set. She was not happy with the look of her pliable chocolate. Her ice cream melted when she plated it, but she decided to keep it, to not lose out. Presenting her dish to the judges, she said that she felt that she had done enough to win MasterChef SA, and if she came second, it would be by a ‘fraction‘! Chef Benny said that her jellies were firm but not perfectly square, even though she had enough time. There was a sharp taste to her jelly. The eclairs were too large. Chef Andrew loved her ice cream and its nutty taste. Chef Benny said that she would change many people’s lives, even when the winner was not yet announced!
Kamini was confident about making the jellies, having had to make it for Chef Richard Carstens‘ dish too. Chef Andrew commented that she was very composed. A big plaster on her finger was visible, but the mishap leading to this was not shown. Chef Benny suggested to her that she should follow the recipe and all should be fine. She had problems in getting her jelly to set, and her ice cream also did not set. Seline pointedly commented that she had a problem with the agar agar. She plated the jelly anyway. Chef Pete said that it was glaringly obvious that the jelly was not right, but he said that the ice cream was ‘glorious‘. Chef Benny added that everything had been done, but that the jelly had not cooked enough. Chef Andrew was more direct, saying that the jelly ‘had gone horribly wrong‘, and that she also had not added enough cocoa powder to the chocolate.
Mary Martin said that it had been incredible to watch Leandri and Kamini cook, and that it was impossible to say who would win. The judges said that it had been an amazing day, and that amazing standards had been set. They had cooked like ‘champions’, Chef Benny said. The Pressure Test was not easy, and they were ‘pushed to their limits‘. They had become accomplished young chefs, Chef Pete said.
In summary, based on last night’s Finale alone, Leandri emerged as the far more creative chef, who pushed her creative boundaries, and who plated better. Unfortunately she did not use her discipline as a scientist to pay attention to the small details, and made some silly mistakes. She appears to have a wider cooking experience than Kamini, and looked more credible in her chef”s jacket. In the past Kamini had been more creative when she could choose her own recipes, but was not very adventurous last night, playing it safe, making unforgivable mistakes, and demonstrating that plating and following recipes are not her strength. Her time management was back on track last night, having been a weakness last week.
The final scores were shown, averaged over the three challenges and three judges. The scores were 83 and 89, and it was Kamini who had scored the highest, to win MasterChef SA Season 2! Chef Benny justified their decision, saying that she had ‘survived all challenges that were thrown at her’. Many viewers were extremely angry about Kamini having been allowed to stay on in episodes 25 and 26, as the MasterChef SA Facebook page shows, with hundreds of comments per post, mostly negative about the ‘rigged’ results. Leandri was a bold runner-up, comforted by her father’s feedback that he was proud of her. Unusual compared to Season 1 was that the prize-giving ceremony was not filmed, all the 16 Finalists having met in Johannesburg and viewed the episode together last night. For many viewers the outcome, although known through leaks and silly mistakes such as Tsogo Sun posters with Kamini on them already having been erected in Gautrain stations in Johannesburg, still is unacceptable, given that Kamini attended a cooking course some years ago (the rules state that one was not allowed to have attended any courses), and her poor performances in the past three episodes, and even in last night’s Finale.
When Kamini’s team won a challenge during Season 2, they went to Charly’s Bakery. There Jacqui Biess had made the contestants visualise winning MasterChef SA, including Kamini. She had written: ‘Kamini is the next MasterChef * Boom!’
Surprising was to see Eat Out’s sloppy summary of episode 27 today, in which they mistakenly referred to Leandri having dinner with her family at Ten Bompas instead of at Tsogo Sun’s 54 on Bath. Eat Out has now corrected the error, without acknowledgement! One last comment should be made about the boring Reuben ‘Robertsons’ Riffel TV commercials, which did not change from last year, and which misleadingly describe him as ‘SA’s top chef’, which he clearly no longer is!
We have enjoyed writing about MasterChef SA Season 2 in the past three months, but must record the very poor knowledge of food terminology and its spelling in the episode write-ups on their website, which improved when we wrote about this. We are grateful to M-Net’s PRO Ingrid Engelbrecht for the invitation to attend the Media Day in January, but were disappointed at the variable supply of media releases, despite regular requests. We apologise to our loyal readers who have no interest in MasterChef SA at all, and who were irritated that we spent so much time on it. We do know that many chefs and restaurant staff who do not own an M-Net decoder and/or who worked at night enjoyed reading the summaries. We are amazed at the readership of our most recent MasterChef blogposts yesterday, the readership of the blog having trebled to over 3000 unique readers yesterday. More than 600 readers had read our blogpost about the controversy regarding Kamini, and another close to 600 had read the post about the Chef Richard Carstens’ challenge. The question was asked on Twitter how the sponsors as well as 2Oceansvibe radio station, on which Kamini has a weekly program, feel about the controversy about Kamini winning. We question what the win has done for blogging, being linked to Kamini and this controversial win, Chef Benny (insultingly, probably unintentionally) saying to Kamini: ‘You are more than a food blogger now – now you are an accomplished cook’!
For an overview of Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here. For an overview of episode 1 of Season 2 read here. For an overview of episode 2 of Season 2 read here, for episode 3 read here, for episode 4 here, episode 5 here, episode 6 here, episode 7, episode 8, episode 9, and episode 10, episode 11, episode 12, episode 13, episode 14, episode 15, episode 16, episode 17, episode 18, episode 19, episode 20,episode 21, episode 22, episode 23, episode 24, episode 25, episode 26 , and episode 27 read here.
POSTSCRIPT 12/9: On reflection, given the mistakes made, none of the two Finalists should have scored more than 50% each in their dish replicating Chef Andrew’s dessert, while the other two dishes made could not have have scored near 80%, given the errors which both Finalists made. The readership of the MasterChef blogposts is unbelievable this morning (at 11h05), with more than 1500 unique readers already. At the end of today, it had shot up to 4150 readers, with this blogpost attracting 800 readers alone.
POSTSCRIPT 12/9 : On a radio interview this morning Kamini revealed that she had known Chef Pete before she auditioned for MasterChef SA Season 2! This should have disqualified her from entering, or he should have recused himself from judging each of her dishes, even though this is not a MasterChef entrance rule (but should obviously be)!
POSTSCRIPT 14/9: In an interview with Beeld, Kamini has admitted to knowing Chef Pete before MasterChef SA Season 2. On her previous blog Deelishus she writes that she attended at least two courses at Chef Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School, one in Cape Town and one in Franschhoek.
MasterChef SA, Season 2. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co Twitter: @MasterChef_SA.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage